Colorado Demonstrates How to Host Meetings During COVID-19

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Colorado Demonstrates How to Host Meetings During COVID-19

By Beth Buehler

For two days in early October 2020, Destination Colorado teamed up with the Aspen Chamber Resort Association to demonstrate how to host meetings during COVID-19 while keeping both attendees’ health and a great experience at the forefront. During the annual Customer Appreciation Event, Destination Colorado interviewed several attendees to gather feedback and learn about how properties around the state, such as Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort near Winter Park and The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, are working with groups to make in-person events a reality again.

Attendees arrive at Hotel Jerome's outdoor courtyard masked up for an evening reception. Courtesy Aspen Chamber Resort Association.

Modifying Approaches

“We reopened on May 26, not really sure what would happen. The response we’ve received from groups ready to travel again safely has been incredible,” says Thad Carlson, senior director of sales for Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa.

Groups have been very accommodating with health and safety protocols implemented by the property “because they know it means their safety as well, and we appreciate that,” Carlson says. “We are limiting groups to state guidelines of 50 people or less currently [as of early October] so the types of groups we are seeing are typically local, so they can drive.”

Smaller group formats allow Devil’s Thumb Ranch to utilize social distancing setups in the wide variety of meeting spaces spread out across the property. “We are excited to be open and working with groups and proud to be doing it in a safe way,” he emphasizes.

There are plenty of indoor and outdoor spaces to spread out at Colorado's ranches. Courtesy Devil's Thumb Ranch Resort and Spa.

The Excitement of Meeting Again

Carlson also serves on the Destination Colorado board of directors and was thrilled to take part in the organization’s Customer Appreciation Event in Aspen. “For me personally, having been on virtual meetings for so many months now, I was very excited to get back out and attend an in-person event. It was a great couple of days; the weather cooperated and all of the partners did such an excellent job making sure we could meet safely again.”

Providing the opportunity to network and demonstrating how to host meetings during COVID-19 was at the heart of the 2020 event. “Everybody at the properties, Aspen Meadows Resort and Hotel Jerome, did a fabulous job. It’s just exciting to see events becoming face-to-face again, and I think it’s a really positive step in the right direction,” says Lynn Hector, owner of LMH Meetings and Events LLC in Denver. “We can really move forward and have positive experiences. It’s time to meet live, and we were all excited to be together.”

Chrissie Widhalm, senior sales manager for executive meetings at The Broadmoor, also attended the Aspen gathering and was thankful to be back networking with clients and colleagues. The Broadmoor reopened the end of June and between then and early October had hosted more than 170 group meetings.

“Most of these meetings have been small corporate retreats of 10 to 20 people, where we are able to appropriately social distance,” she says. “We have been very creative setting up meetings outside in a pod-style fashion so that people feel safe and comfortable. We are looking forward to the industry really bouncing back. We’re looking forward to the future.”

Attendees were happy to meet again even if it meant masks and social distancing!

Idyllic Place for Gathering

Colorado is an ideal destination for groups and meetings at any time and in all four seasons but especially during the era of COVID-19, suggests Kelly Layton, who will become executive director of Destination Colorado in January 2021 and is currently director of business development for the Colorado-based destination management company Operation Altitude.

She cites three specific reasons. “First, we thrive and live outdoors all year round with venues and activities geared to all seasons. Second, Colorado supports a culture of health and wellness, and we’ve all heard studies about how good it is to be out in the fresh air and immersed in nature. Colorado does this better than anybody! Third, Colorado is filled with natural beauty. It’s a playground, from the hidden little towns and the mountain resorts to the cities nestled at the foot of the Rocky Mountains,” she says. “Colorado is an incredible destination that celebrates Mother Nature like nobody else.”

Colorado is indeed demonstrating how to host meetings during COVID-19, and Destination Colorado is a great resource for how and where to gather in the state. From consolidating the RFP process to linking planners to suppliers, the organization stands ready to assist!

A fall hike was among the morning activities available to attendees.
One of many outdoor spaces at Aspen Meadows Resort to gather and catch up.

Beth Buehler has been editor of Colorado Meetings + Events magazine for 16 years and helped launch Mountain Meetings magazine in 2013. She has planned numerous meetings and events and enjoys exploring Colorado.